This is the newest game that Bean and Chris have started playing. Every night while we’re making dinner, Chris and Bean back up to different sides of the kitchen and then run straight towards each other and right at the last minute before they collide, Chris jumps over Bean. Then they both fall down laughing. Apparently, it’s the greatest thrill in life. Right there in our kitchen.
Looking at this picture, you’d probably never guess that about 2 seconds after it was taken Bean had a complete and total meltdown right there on the kitchen floor because I told him he couldn’t have a cookie since we were about to sit down to dinner.
Episodes like this are becoming more and more frequent in our little household and, quite frankly, they are so annoying! Bean seems to have a perpetual case of PMS. He can go from happy and excited to devastated and unhinged in about 2.5 seconds flat. And usually, the devastated and unhinged part involves rolling around on the floor, wailing. But then, in about 2.5 seconds flat again, he’s back up and happy and into something new.
At first, I was thinking these were directly related to him being tired. But then it started happening during times when he was, clearly, not tired. Like, in the middle of a perfectly sunny, happy, family, fun-filled afternoon. Or, in the middle of the grocery store at 10:00 in the morning. At those times, it was hard to blame it on anything else. It just confirmed our worst nightmares.
(cue the Jaws theme song)
We were entering the dreaded Terrible Two’s.
(cue a blood curdling scream)
In the past couple weeks, it has become obvious and distinct. These are terrible two temper tantrums. How do I know this? Because even though they appear to be irrational and illogical in nature, I’m actually starting to notice a pattern to these little fits and can even see what the triggers are for Bean. Almost every one of his temper tantrums is prompted by one of two things. Either he can’t do something he wants to do or he gets in trouble.
Bean hates to stop doing something when he’s having fun. But sometimes it happens. For example, throwing golf balls at the dogs. It just can’t happen. It’s fun for no one except Bean, who happens to think this is the MOST fun. But when we ask him to stop and he doesn’t, we then have to take his golf balls away. And the temper tantrum commences. He flings himself on the floor and begins dramatically crying. When this happens, Chris and I simply step over and/or around him and go on with our business. When he’s flung himself out and rolled to the far regions of our house and has finally somewhat composed himself, we start playing with him again and life goes on.
The second thing that prompts the temper tantrums is harder to deal with. In a nutshell, Bean hates to get in trouble. Hates it. He can’t stand when Chris or I are mad at him. It gets him all bent out of shape. So, when we take something away from him or correct a behavior, what starts as a simple, “No, Bean,” quickly becomes an Oscar-worthy meltdown. Most of the time, he’s not even in trouble. It’s just a little correction or reminder of the rules. But to Bean, we might as well have told him that we don’t love him anymore and that Santa isn’t real. In these times, we try not to go too hard on Bean.
But the hardest part about Bean’s temper tantrums is the newest part of them. In the past two or three weeks, they have started to involve hitting, kicking, and throwing. Bean gets so angry and frustrated that he throws whatever it is that he has in his hand. So, we make him to right over and pick it up because “we do not throw.” But the minute we make him go pick whatever he threw up, he starts swinging at us. Which results in a time out, where he sits and kicks his feet at anyone as they walk by.
Describing that behavior is really embarrassing, actually. It sounds like I’m raising a hell child and I hope as you read this you don’t get some horrible image of Bean. I’m a big believer that temper tantrums are not the personality of the child. I really think they are caused by something, the result of something, a response to something. Bean’s acting out is an inability to communicate some emotion or thought. So, while I understand what he’s going through, I don’t excuse that behavior. The goal then becomes teaching and disciplining without driving him further down the path of frustration.
IT’S SO FREAKING HARD!!!
So far, the best we’ve come up with is the walk away and the return. It goes like this: When Bean starts hitting and/or kicking, Chris or I get right down to his level, right up to his face, and we firmly say, “We do NOT hit, Michael.” And then, we walk away if he’s already in time out or we put him in time out if he isn’t already there. Without fail, this causes an epic breakdown for Bean. As much as I don’t like that behavior, I really, really don’t like the epic meltdown. It breaks my heart to hear Bean cry like that because there’s heartbreak in his little cry when he’s gotten in trouble.
When Bean calms down a little bit and we can actually speak to him, we do the return part. We go back over to him, give him a hug, and let him cry on our shoulders for a bit. And then we say to him again that hitting or kicking it not allowed and we ask him to say he’s sorry. When he does, we hug him, tell him he’s a big boy and that we love him, and then we go find something fun to do.
It’s times like these in parenting when I feel really unsure of myself. Sure, I occasionally read parenting books and articles. And I read other parent’s blogs. And, naturally, I rely on what I learn from my own childhood and my own parents. But none of those things prepare you for being the one in the driver’s seat when it comes to disciplining your own child. They might give you ideas and methods and styles that you can use. But when you’re staring at the fruit of your womb acting like a little turd which is immediately followed 3 seconds later by him feeling unloved by his own parents, well, quite frankly, you just want to throw parenting books at those helpful people because they aren’t the ones who have to make judgment calls right there in your kitchen.
So far, the best Chris and I have figured out how to do is stay united. We don’t do the good parent/bad parent thing. Whoever begins a specific discipline moment, ends it. Like tonight when Bean was throwing golf balls at the dogs and I took the golf ball away, Bean went crying to Chris who sent him right back to me. And the only other thing we’ve figured out and feel confident in is that our #1 job is to let Bean know that we love him, whether he’s right or wrong, whether we’re laughing or crying, whether we’re playing or sitting in time out. Punishment in our house will always come from a place of love. Other than those two things, I’m learning that discipline in parenting is, like most other aspects of parenting, trial and error.
When I was growing up, my parents seemed like old pros. Professional Parents. They just seemed to naturally have all the right answers and know how to handle every situation my sister and I threw at them. But what I’m learning is that more than likely, they stood in our kitchen handing out the discipline and punishments, and then went into their bedroom, shut the door, and said to each other, “We did the right thing, right???”
Because that’s what parenting is, I’m learning. It’s doing the best you can and keeping your child’s well being at the center of every decision you make.